A short story from the Lockheed days,
sent by John Sinnott via email:
YOUR LOCAL TEAM
a Liverpool fan, living in London and from the Midlands, people often ask
me why I don’t support my local side.
Well as a young boy I was a fanatical follower of Lockheed
Leamington Football Club. The
strange name came from the largest employer in the town, the huge
multi-million dollar American Company Lockheed.
Thousands of Leamingtonians spent their week grinding out parts for
brakes and clutches in the monster workshops, which formed the massive
factory, which dwarfed the ground.
factory owned the ground. If
only they had put some of the millions into the club they could have
become another Watford or Wimbledon.
Just as well then. The
Windmill ground was impressive to an eight-year-old boy who had only
watched games in black and white on Match of the Day or Star Soccer.
The ground was named after an actual Windmill that used to lie
behind one of the goals and was the subject of much reminiscence among
some of the older spectators.
Behind one goal was the home end known as the "Cow Shed end".
This consisted of 8 concrete steps.
There were 4 steps, a flat plateau and another 4 steps.
The end was covered by a flimsy corrugated roof, which scattered
flakes of metal over the crowd below whenever a miss hit shot thundered
against it. (About 60% of the brakes attacks).
A small wall kept the fans safe from the low shots that whistled
wide of the opposition goal.
I only saw
Lockheed attacking that end, as at half time an exodus would lead towards
the corner flag, around the side of the pitch, past the "cemetery
side", where a small covered terrace 20 yards either side of the
half-way line would obscure the view of Leamington's Municipal Cemetery,
before arriving in the away end. You
had to rush to get there first to ensure a reasonable view.
This end was so small you could only stand 3 deep.
It consisted of a small grassy bank, which would transform itself,
given the slightest shower, into a small muddy bank.
If it rained too heavily, we would occasionally attempt to sneak into the
Mainstand. This structure
rose above the side opposite the cemetery.
This was the highlight of the ground.
Behind the dugouts, a covered stand with 12 rows of wooden benches.
Towards the end of midweek games, when it was dark, it was possible
to sneak into the stand and sit in the top row imagining we were visiting
directors with a birds eye view of the rugged football below us.
I first went to
watch a game in the late sixties. I
think Lockheed were playing a pre-season friendly against Northwich
Victoria. Being part of a
live sporting event excited me. The
shouts of the crowd (around 300), the shouts of the players, the lovely
green grass after the summer break. I
decided that Lockheed, or the `Brakes' as they were affectionately known
would be my team.
to Secondary school I found 2 friends who attended matches with me.
Stokesy and Yampi. Stokesy was a round boy with a spotty face, not the normal
adolescent spots but great explosions of red with hard white boils.
Yampi was a skinny kid. He
came from a posh house in Kenilworth but was known for being mean.
He would pretend to go off to the toilets but sneakily buy a wagon
wheel from the club shop on the way back, greedily stuffing it down his
mouth before he got back and had to offer us a bite.
He spent most of the games talking about pop music but we had to
stand next to him because he had the transistor for the half time scores.
After a few years of home support Stokesy discovered that away travel was
possible. The players’
coach left from outside the Windmill ground.
Trips to exotic destinations such as Bedworth, Nuneaton and Rugby
were open to supporters for free. As
Lockheed progressed up the non-league ladder trips were undertaken to far
away places such as Kings Lynn and Merthyr Tydfil.
remember one away match against Kettering Town.
At that time they were a crack side, on top of the league and
pushing for promotion into the highest national non-league division.
The coach left at 11 a.m. with a dozen players, the manager and
trainer, about 3 directors and their 3 loyal supporters, me, Stokesy and
Yampi. The players would pass
their time playing cards while we would gaze out on the Warwickshire
country side as the coach headed off, full of nervous anticipation of the
big struggle ahead.
arrived in Kettering at around 1 p.m.
The coach driver would have to stop and ask for directions to the
ground. Weaving in and out of the Saturday shopping traffic in the
town centre people would look blankly at the driver and say, "I never
knew we had a football team here" or "There’s a football
ground in Northampton mate".
We finally arrived at the ground and the scene of the struggle was upon
us. This was the moment when we would attempt to grab hold of the
corners of the enormous Kit hamper and struggle though the entrance marked
`players and officials'. Lockheed's
trainer would allow us to help but many a sour Gateman would refuse us
entry and consign us to an hour standing outside a ground on the edge of a
midlands town waiting for the turnstiles to open.
This particular day we pushed past and were free to deliver the kit
to the away changing room. Once
inside we would tour the stadium envying the home fans such a fantastic
ground. The main stand
towered above the edge of the pitch throwing a shadow across the green
pitch. We climbed to the back
row of the stand and gazed in awe at the view.
The local fans started to file into the ground.
Kettering attracted around 800 supporters in those days and we were
the subject of some mild amusement thanks to Yampi's Gold and Black
Lockheed scarf that his Mum had knitted.
We stood behind the goal where the Brakes were warming up.
As I turned to warn Yampi to hide his scarf, a ball slammed into my
face stinging and hurling my glasses across the small terrace behind.
Stokesy picked them up as I tried to fight back my tears.
The player who had sliced his shot wide of the goal approached,
"are you alright kid?” I nodded shyly, hiding my reddened eyes from
his view. He noticed
Stoksie’s grubby hands displaying a mangled pair of black national
health glasses, one lens shattered. "Don't
worry kid, the club will pay for any damage, just give the bill to the
manager". The player
wandered back to his teammates. I
pushed the broken lens out of one eye and twisted the plastic frame to fit
my head. I had to watch the
rest of the game through one eye by standing slightly sideways behind the
At half time the
Brakes were 2-0 up. This was
undreamt of. For the 2nd half
we vacated our end of the pitch and headed for the main stand.
From hear we watched the home side "the poppies" fight
back encouraged by the rantings of a balding manager in a tight fitting
suit on the touchline. They
scored one and quickly equalised. The
manager punched the air and screamed his side on for the inevitable
winner. The gold and black shirts suddenly raced away in a counter
attack. A deep cross flashed
in to the Kettering goalmouth and the lanky haired Leamington striker
misheaded the ball, which looped over the line for the winner.
Their manager was furious, we stood and cheered.
A few hundred hostile faces turned towards us before the whistle
went and they filed sullenly home.
We were faced with the 2nd great challenge of the day.
After getting into the ground without paying we now tried to sneak
into the clubhouse. We were
13 at the time and envied the older youths who could enter the Brakes Club
at home matches for a drink with the players.
We stood outside the windows of the Kettering social club taking in
the final scores on Radio 2. Liverpool
had won and I was doubly pleased. Stokesy
was upset because Man Utd had lost and Yampi only supported Lockheed so
was reliving the best moments of the glorious win we had just witnessed.
After half an hour the doorman had retired to have his drink at the bar as
the crowd had long emptied and just the 3 away fans remained.
Stokesy pushed open the door and the way was clear, we shuffled in
to the corner of the club and found an empty table. World of Sport was just coming to an end on the Telly above
us. I went to the bar and
ordered 3 lemonade and limes and we sat quietly waiting for the victorious
players to file in for a celebratory drink.
Lockheed heroes started to push their way into the club heading for the
bar. Pints of Ansells Bitter and Skol lager were passed over heads
from the bar to the crowd of players behind.
The goalscorer gulped back his pint and shouted for more. "Get
us a Davenports will yea".
The players, representatives of the famous Lockheed Leamington, the
Brakes, were slowly but surely getting bladdered.
The screams of laughter increasingly loud as dirty jokes were spat
out. Finally cursing and
swearing the players staggered back outside, the goal scorer having one
last piss up against the side of the G&G coach before being pushed on
board for the journey back to Warwickshire.
On the way home that night the coach was full of laughing and joking
players slurring stories of pubs and curry houses.
The banter drifted on to loose women and gossip about players who
were not there. Me, Stokesy
and Yampi sat silently in the back row wondering why the one subject
unheard during the whole journey was football!.
A couple of years later the local ITV midlands news carried a sports story
about the new manager of West Brom. He
had arrived via Cambridge Town and Kettering.
I looked up from my saveloys and beans to see the familiar face of
Ron Atkinson. Big Fat Ron, the manager frustrated by the Brakes.